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Destination Freedom

Essay by   •  March 2, 2011  •  2,828 Words (12 Pages)  •  1,009 Views

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Events preceding the war

Awami League's unprecedented victory in the National Assembly election on 7 December 1970 came as a massive blow for the ruling military junta of West Pakistan. It was the first National Assembly election in 23 years, after the formation of Pakistan in 1947. The result was upsetting for the Pakistani rulers as it was beyond their calculation. Out of 300 National Assembly seats Awami League won 167. Even Awami League gained sweeping victory in the Provincial Assembly election of December 17 as well, winning all but 2 of the 162 seats. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, being the lawful claimant, was in the potential position to form a government. Consequently the people from all corners desired transfer of power to the elected representatives of East Pakistan. But it was unlikely to happen as the military rulers planned otherwise.

Few days after the election result, clouds started to darken the sky. Political scene became intense as Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto firmly opposed Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib's six-point demand declared in 1966. Bhutto's thoughts were shared by the West Pakistani military generals. Six-point demand, which alluded to the autonomy of East Pakistan, immediately became very popular among the mass people. This announcement displeased the West Pakistani rulers at that time. They viewed it as a sign of defiance.

Negotiations begin

Pakistani generals feared that Awami League now being in a powerful position after the election result might try to execute the six-point demand. Amidst this intense situation, President Yahya Khan visited Dhaka on 11 January 1971. He even addressed Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib as the 'would be Prime Minister" of Pakistan. Negotiations took place and Yahya stipulated on the cutback of demand for autonomy. Mujib boldly refused any concession on the issue. Yahya went back to Pakistan.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto visited Dhaka on 27 January 1971. More negotiations took place. However, Bhutto-Mujib talks failed to resolve the situation. On 12 February President Yahya announced that the National Assembly is to be held on March 3rd in Dhaka.

Events afterwards substantiated the fact that the negotiation and the subsequent announcement were merely a formality. But On 13th February 1971, just after Yahya's announcement of the National Assembly date, Bhutto stunned everyone at the political scene. He announced that his party would not go to Dhaka to join the Assembly. Political leaders of Pakistan criticised Bhutto for this statement. Elected representatives of West Pakistan including Wali Khan, G. M. Syad and Maolana Mufti later arrived in Dhaka even after Bhutto's announcement. They called on Mujib and expressed their support for the democratic cause.

Traitor Pakistanis and defiant Bangalees

Bhutto threatened to launch a general strike throughout Pakistan if the Assembly was held in scheduled time. By now the people of East Pakistan was convinced that the Pakistani rulers would not let a Bengali rule the country. West Pakistan's positive response to Bhutto's threat was yet another proof of this presumption. On 1st March Yahya postponed the assembly. The declaration ignited the fire. Eventually tension escalated. People burst out on the streets with protest rallies. Continuous slogans condemning Pakistani rulers echoed in the streets of Dhaka. They chanted 'Padma, Meghna, Jamuna, tomar amar thikana'.

On 2nd March, Hartal was observed by the entire nation. Red and green flag with yellow map of Bangladesh in centre flapped in the air on this day. Students of Dhaka University hoist it up at Bot tola, in front of the Kala Bhavan. They burned Pakistani flag. Army killed two young demonstrators; thousands continued marching the streets of Dhaka and other cities, raising militant slogans, 'Bir bangali austro dhoro Bangladesh swadhin koro'. A curfew was imposed. Troops armed with latest weapons moved around the city to enforce it. Agitated demonstrators defied the curfew and clashed with the troops, losing six persons. More hartals followed. Six-point demand was gradually turning into a one-point demand among the mass. Freedom became the one and only obsession for the entire nation.

Non cooperation movement

Non-cooperation movement was called on March 3rd. Complete shut down of the entire nation was the response. No one went to the office from this day. Schools were closed. Black flag fluttered on the rooftop of every building. Cultural organisations such as Udichi Shilpi Goshthi, Betar-Television Shilpi Shangshad, Mohila Parishad, arranged street drama, gono shangit, and meetings, conveying the message of freedom to the general people. Lawyers of High court, employees of deferent private organisations, civil servants, joined the movement.

People participated in the protests in their very own way. Gradually they came forward with a remarkable idea of protest. On 4th March, the name 'Radio Pakistan' was altered to 'Dhaka Betar Kendro'.

On 6th March, Yahya in another futile effort tried to convince the raging people with an announcement that the assembly will be held on 25 March. The announcement was followed by the appointment of infamous Tikka Khan as the Governor of East Pakistan. The people of Bangladesh will not be deceived any more. They deemed this announcement as another mischievous scheme of the wicked Pakistanis.

Thinkers of deferent media joined forces with the protesting people. It gave a new dimension to people's dream. On this day the cultural activists of Betar and TV declined to join any programmes.

March 7: History was made

The historical event that strengthened the courage of the entire nation was Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib's speech at Race Course Maidan. It was March 7, people waited eagerly for the meeting. Freedom beckoned and they were already prepared to fight for it. All they needed was a boost from their leader. The meeting was due in the afternoon. No one waited till then. People started to gather from early noon with flags and bamboo sticks in their hand. Several hundred thousand attended the meeting. Those who did not live in Dhaka waited for the relay transmission of the speech on the radio. On this day Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib elevated the inner strength of the people present in the meeting with his raged words. "Ebarer shangram muktir shangram, ebarer shangram shadhinotar shongram", he proclaimed before the mass people.

The Martial Law authority postponed relay transmission of this historical speech. This act enraged the employees

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